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· 14 min read
Adam Kecskes

Hiring software developers is notoriously hard to do, even for those of us who are technically savvy. Hiring developers is like buying a book; just because the editorial blurb on the back is great doesn't make the writing great.

If you have a project that is more than just a single-page website, you'll need to hire a development shop (or go through the effort of hiring your own staff, which is a very different topic) to do the heavy lifting. Your project may be starting from scratch, or maybe your existing application is buggy or not very scalable and you need to refresh it. For whatever reason, you recognize that hiring a person off of Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer just isn't going to hack it. You're already on the right track.

· 4 min read
Adam Kecskes

It doesn't take much effort to find examples of truly deplorable leadership in the present (and it's a slam dunk if you take the historical route). Today, I encountered a LinkedIn article and an NPR radio program that centered around the idea of toxic leadership, so it seemed like an obvious choice for a topic, especially considering how many toxic leaders I've encountered in my own career.

My mother, of all people, use to always say "Screw up, move up." I remember her saying that about politicians when I was a kid and she still says it today. Why is that?

Part it is what is known as the Peter Principle.

Dr. Laurence Peter, for whom the principle is named put it this way:

In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

However, that's only part of the problem. Yes, employees rise to fill bigger and bigger positions that they eventually can't handle, but there are two other factors (among many) I'd highlight:

  • People don't know how to hire other people.
  • Over-confidence in an interview does not competence make.

On the first point, hiring manager often want someone that is either like them or fulfills some arbitrary standards (from HR, from their own experience, from where ever). I've been involved in the (horrific) practice of group interviews, and I've stood aghast at some of the reasons my fellow interviewers would [not] hire someone. "I was a better coder at his age!" (said an older gentleman), or "I still don't like that he doesn't have a degree" (despite the fact that the candidate demonstrated phenomenal skills in the interview.)

Hiring managers/teams often forget why they are hiring someone, as well: To fulfill a particular role. But is that role even well defined? I had one boss who insisted I hire someone because he thought my team needed the help. I resisted, because I didn't see a pressing need for anyone in the next several months.

On the second point, just because someone seems to be well-qualified and has a great personality in the interview doesn't mean he or she is actually competent. In one company, my team met with a recently-hired fellow from another department; he'd been hired as a manager. He had an impressive interview -- mostly in finance and Wall Street, which set off warning bells in my head, considering that wasn't related to our business domain.

Turns out, along with the very nice interview skills and well-heeled resume, he had a nasty, nasty temper, and over-engineered certain systems so that using said systems was labyrinthian. Eventually, his team mutinied against him and the company was forced to let him go.

So what does a hiring manager do? More due diligence, for one. Call the person's past employers (or at least have HR do it!). Set up concrete credentials to be met for the role -- and I'm not talking "must have 2 years of experience in such-and-such esoteric systems." Rather, codify your department's own culture. What type of person would fit best? Remember, people have different personalities in the work environment than at home. Just because a person is shy and you're group is outgoing, generally, doesn't mean that person won't fit. Consider also, what's tangentially missing from the group and what would be nice to have.

During the interview sessions, have a consistent set of questions that don't have pre-determined answers (well, mostly not), that way you can compare oranges to oranges. Make sure to ask interested questions, rather than interesting questions ("What do you like to see in management?" vs "What can you do for me?") It helps to through in the biggie questions -- set up a tough (and hopefully real from the past) scenario and see how they might manage their way through it.

It takes some fine tuning of other people's tonality, body language and micro-expressions, as well as a bit of experience to hire good folks while remaining relatively unbiased. It takes a lot more work to get rid of those toxic employees (and especially) leaders that you let slip through the cracks just because they were personable in a handful of discussions.


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